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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 13, 2005

The Increase of Lunacy in Scotland.

Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(14):1804. doi:10.1001/jama.293.14.1804-c

Medical News.

From time to time we have called attention in THE JOURNAL to the alarming increase of lunacy in the United Kingdom and have given figures dealing with England and Ireland. In a paper on the subject read at the Glasgow Eastern Medical Society Dr. W. A. Parker has dealt specially with Scotland. In the United Kingdom 1.86 insane persons per 1,000 of population were registered insane in 1862; the figure was 3.58 in 1902. In Scotland 5,824 lunatics were registered in 1848; in 1904 the number was 16,894. Thus the number of lunatics increased by 180 per cent. while the population increased by only 52 per cent. There is one hopeful fact, however, which suggests that the increase may have reached its limit; in 1892 the insane numbered 250 per 100,000 of the population; in 1904 the number was a little less—245. This is the first time that any check has occurred in the increase. Several explanations of the increase in lunacy have been given 1. In 1857, when district asylums were first instituted by parliament (owing to dissatisfaction with the treatment of lunatics in workhouses), a great impulse was given to the better care of the insane. This led to the gathering into asylums of many weak-minded persons who had been cared for in their own homes and were then for the first time registered as insane. Thus the increase so produced is only a registered one and does not represent a real increase. 2. There is a steady tendency of the rural population to drift toward the larger towns and many weaklings and senile patients who would be cared for by their friends in quiet country places are sent to asylums. This again does not represent a real increase. A true increase is represented by the increase of general paralytics in the asylums. 3. The death rate of the inmates of asylums, in consequence of hygienic improvements, has diminished, which results is a greater number of registered lunatics.

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